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Monday, June 25, 2012

Decoding the Monster Bill - Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE

*Please note that when I wrote this post, it was originally based on the May draft.  There is now a July 9 draft and you can see the quick comparison here -

The monster bill also seeks to limit the advertising restrictions to products targeted to babies 0-6 months (Sec. 32).  This means that for products for babies 6 months and up, advertising and promotions shall be freely allowed.  There are just so many things WRONG with this provision.  Under the current laws, all advertising, promotions, etc. require prior approval or permit from the IAC.  Here is the position of the Save the Babies Coalition on this matter:
Allowing promotions for products for six (6) months and above, will cause an irreparable damage to the growth and development of our country. Allowing this does not protect and support breastfeeding but it only favors milk industry gains and commercial interests.
This was already surfaced by the late US Senator Kennedy, in 1978, when he himself called for a senatorial investigation on the review of marketing and promotional practices of the milk industry that resulted in requesting UNICEF and WHO to help member countries in developing appropriate measures that will regulate and if necessary prohibit certain marketing practices.

Cong. Lani Mercado-Revilla has a Facebook page and several friends have messaged her asking her not to support the passage of the monster bill.   Here are her replies:

I'm not sure why she is going back to her own HB3537 bill when her bill has been consolidated with the monster bill.  Clearly, when the monster bill as worded is passed, the advertising limits will be 0-6 months and not 0-12 months.  Milk companies will definitely capitalize on this and egg pediatricians to tell mothers that their breastmilk is no longer good enough for babies beyond 6 months.  I have already heard a lot of moms telling me how their pediatricians suggest that they supplement with formula to make their babies "healthier".  Supplementation is the first step to losing your milk supply! 
As I shared in this post - Watering Down the Milk Code, milk companies have become experts in convincing parents that food is not enough nutrition and you need formula milk to be "panatag". 

The monster bill also removes the mandatory bilingual labeling on containers and labels required under the RIRR implementing the Milk Code (Sec. 26).  Instead, milk companies may opt to display labels only in English (Sec. 34g of the monster bill) - a language which majority of their target market won't be able to fully comprehend.  Further, milk companies will be allowed to donate informational or educational equipment which may bear their name or logo (Sec. 25 of the monster bill).  Under the current laws and regulations, gifts of any sort (and that includes baby books) are prohibited (Sec. 21, RIRR). But why do you still see baby books with milk company logos being distributed? Because no one reports them and no one has really filed a case against them - and that is why milk companies continue to distribute their baby books with impunity. [Update: under the July 9 draft, the mandatory bilingual labeling has been restored]

A dangerous provision under the monster bill is Sec. 20(c) where manufacturer, distributor or representatives are allowed to conduct or be involve din the promotion, education and production of information, education and communication materials (IEC materials) on breastfeeding infant care and young child care and nutrition with IAC approval.  Under the current laws and regulations (Sec. 22 of the RIRR),  milk companies are not allowed to conduct or be involved in any activity on breastfeeding promotion, education and production of IEC materials, holding of or participating as speakers in classes or seminars for women and children activities and to avoid the use of these venues to market their brands or company names.  By allowing the milk companies to participate, the monster bill ignores the clear conflict of interest - milk companies will want to increase sales of their infant formula - breastfeeding is their competitor.  Despite their promises, we can never be assured that correct information will be given.  Allowing milk companies to conduct such seminars is like allowing a tobacco company to conduct a no-smoking seminar. 

Have you read this PRESS RELEASE from the Office of Cong. Josephine Noel? Here's a quote: "The solon filed House Bill 3527 entitled "An Act Providing for the Promotion of Breastfeeding Practices and Instituting Measures Therefore and for Other Purposes" to emphasize the importance of choice vis-a-vis breastfeeding." This is how she justifies limiting the absolute ban on prohibition to 0-6 months and allowing unrestricted advertisements for products for babies 6 months and up (no prior permit or approval required).  
According to Rep. Lacson-Noel, "it also recognizes the importance of proper education and awareness among pregnant women and mothers of infants for them to be empowered and make the correct decisions regarding infant feeding practices". 
Apparently, Cong. Noel is blind to the realities of infant marketing practices.  Has she even seen the film, Formula For Disaster.  Is she ignorant of the WHO studies on the effect of advertisement on feeding choices and the economic burden of infant formula on Filipino families with young children? How can she say that allowing unencumbered marketing will lead to informed choices when in fact this will end up in marketing and advertising tactics that will mislead the public.

Finally, let me add, I was find out that some Representatives signed the Noel/Rodriguez bill because it was being promoted in Congress as a pro-breastfeeding bill! Do you see how insidious these milk companies act?  With election time coming, now is the best time to make your voice be heard and write your legislators!  To find out which legislator supports which bill, click these links - Gunigundo BillNoel/Rodriguez BillMercado/Torres Bill

The monster bill is now with the Technical Working Group.   At this stage, I do not think we are ready for any new law revising the Milk Code.  As it is, the Milk Code is a legacy by Cory Aquino as it is pattered after the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.  The RIRR gave it more teeth which accounts for the slow but gradual increase in the breastfeeding rates.  Given this development, the formula companies are really not too happy hence these steps to amend the existing laws to their benefit.  

Should the monster bill be passed, decades of hard work by the breastfeeding advocates in the Philippines will be wiped out and we will be back to being a formula-feeding culture to the delight of these milk companies.  So what can you do? Write those letters not only to your Congressmen but also to the members of the Committees on Health and Trade/Industry.  Kill the monster bill now!  


Nina said...

There is an article in Inquirer today about this issue... i

So glad that media is now helping to spread the news about this monster bill.

witchycrazymommy said...

Thanks for explaining this, I am planning to exclusively breastfeed my 2nd baby and this kind of information, support and motivation is very helpful. happy weekend!

Jenny said...

thank you for dropping by! we must be informed as moms about the realities of infant formula marketing practices.

Jenny said...

me too! thank you for dropping by Nina!

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